Update from Fall 2012
After last year when our birds were stolen right before processing, we decided it was time to take a break from raising large batches of Cornish cross chickens. It was a difficult decision as we love providing quality chicken to our customers but we needed to figure out a way to do it without getting birds stolen.
So this year, we decided to mainly just experiment. We told our lovely customers that we wouldn't be able to provide chickens this year in case we weren't able to find a solution. Thankfully our experiment worked and we do have some available. (And we've sold out! Thanks everyone!)
Now as to what we did differently this year:
First off, we had been curious about the new heritage meat chickens that have come on the market recently. We wanted to see if any could compare to the Cornish Cross. While we are not big fans of the Cornish cross breed, they certainly do grow well and you get a good rate of return on you feed. So we ordered two different breeds, the Red Ranger and the Heritage White from Jenks Hatchery.
The second thing we did differently was to raise a much smaller batch. This allowed us to raise them in the orchard, right near the house and within eye sight of our good neighbors. Before, they were raised out in the pasture where they weren't visible to anyone but us and if we weren't home that meant they were wide open for the taking.
Of the two breeds, we liked the Heritage Whites better than the Red Rangers because at the end of 9 weeks the Red Rangers averaged a smidgen over 3 lbs but the Heritage Whites weighed in at around 5.4lbs. A much better weight gain ratio. And they both tasted just as good, even better than the Cornish cross.
Also, we liked how much hardier and livelier the heritage breeds were. We only had a death rate of about 2% which when compared to the Cornish crosses rate of 10-15% is fantastic!
It was also fun to see how much smarter they were then the Cornish. The baby chicks knew right away how to eat and drink.
I think the only disadvantage we found was that of course, they ate more food per pound gained, thus the reasons for the higher price.
Overall, the Heritage Whites were the definite favorite and I think we'll be raising them again!
Baby chicks are always so cute!
The Heritage Whites and Red Rangers enjoying breakfast.
The chicken shelter in the orchard.